William H. Cody, known and admired by the millions worldwide who had seen his Wild West show, “Buffalo Bill,” made his final appearance in Idaho in June of 1915. His show, greatly diminished in size since its heyday in the 19th century, traveled that year with the Sells-Floto Circus. The combined attractions appeared in Lewiston, Moscow, Boise, Twin Falls and Pocatello. Bill died in 1917, but his legend lingers. It is entirely possible that he was seen live by more people in Europe and America than any entertainer who ever lived.
Boise Valley people had first seen Cody’s show in August 1902, when it was advertised in the Idaho Statesman as “First, Last and Only Visit. The Biggest and Best of All.” “Au Revoir, But Not Goodbye.” “Will Positive (sic) Go to Europe This Fall, But This Year Will Tour The American Continent FROM OCEAN TO OCEAN Visiting The Principal Cities and Greater Railway Centers Only, as a Parting Salute to the Great Nation Which Gave it Birth.” The two-column, half-page ad continued in this vein, with hyperbole to spare.
J.W. Robinson was elected mayor of Boise in 1915, and was ousted from office in a recall election in 1916. “The grounds for recall,” reported a wire service, “are that preference has been shown by the mayor and private detectives he employed to raid questionable resorts; that in many cases people of no influence were caught in the dragnet and were prosecuted, while in others those of prominence were allowed to escape without prosecution.” The mayor denied the charge, declaring he was just trying to enforce the law. Robinson was the only mayor in Boise history to be recalled, and probably the only one to hire private detectives to enforce those laws.
John Regan was commissioned a captain in the Idaho National Guard’s quartermaster company in 1915, but resigned his commission to be sent on a more challenging assignment when the Guard was sent to the Mexican border during that country’s revolution. He went overseas with the Guard when America entered World War I, and was killed in battle on Aug. 4, 1918. Boise’s American Legion post is named for him.
Also in 1915, Boise’s Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, whose members were wives and daughters of Union veterans of the Civil War, ordered a statue of Abraham Lincoln to be placed on display at the Idaho Veterans Home on West State Street. The statue was one of six cast by the W.H. Mullins Co.’s foundry in Wooster, Ohio. The first, the work of German sculptor Alphonse Pelzer, is located in Middlesex, N.J. When Pelzer went back to Germany, Mullins hired John G. Segesman, who created a similar Lincoln statue, of which five were cast, including the one now relocated to a site in front of Idaho’s Capitol. Ours is believed to be the oldest Lincoln statue west of the Mississippi.
A smaller and less impressive example of public art is the drinking fountain erected and dedicated in 1915 in front of Boise’s castle-like old City Hall at 8th and Idaho streets. It was donated by the local chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, in honor of Mary B. Tolles, who had been a leader in the fight for abstinence from alcoholic beverages and the closing of saloons. A strategy employed by WCTU chapters across the country was placing their water fountains near saloons, giving the thirsty a wholesome choice. When the 1893 City Hall was torn down in 1953, the Tolles fountain was repaired and moved to its present location in front of City Hall.
Next week we’ll share more 1915 history, with an emphasis on sports and entertainment.